New BYU coach Mark Pope makes a recruiting trip to West Africa, then parts ways with another signee

Wasatch Academy forward Bernardo Da Silva signed with BYU last November, but has been released from his scholarship and will pursue other options, coach Dave Evans said. | Photo courtesy of Wasatch Academy basketball.

Provo • BYU has parted ways with another high school basketball player who signed with the Cougars when Dave Rose was the head coach.

New BYU coach Mark Pope and Wasatch Academy forward Bernardo Da Silva have “mutually agreed” to release each other from the National Letter of Intent they signed last November, Wasatch Academy coach David Evans confirmed Thursday. Evans declined further comment on that particular situation.

The separation was first reported by Utah County sports radio station ESPN 960, although The Salt Lake Tribune has reported in several recent articles that the breakup was likely to happen.

Da Silva, who is 6-foot-9 but has a 7-2 wingspan, is from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and played for the private boarding school in Mount Pleasant the past three seasons. He averaged 7.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game for the nationally ranked Tigers last season.

His role and minutes were limited, Evans said, only because the team also featured one of the most heavily recruited juniors in the country, 6-10 forward Mady Sissoko, and it is difficult in high school basketball to play two bigs together.

Da Silva has several options — he had offers from Oregon State, Washington State, Boise State and New Mexico, among others, before he chose BYU last fall — and is scheduled to visit NCAA Tournament participant UC Irvine this weekend.

BYU has also offered Sissoko, who is from Mali, West Africa.

Two sources confirmed that Pope recently made a trip to West Africa to visit with Sissoko’s parents, who are devout Muslims, like their son.

At first glance, BYU would seem to be a long shot for Sissoko, who also has offers from Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, Minnesota and others. However, the family is intrigued by how BYU’s Honor Code closely resembles some of the tenets of their own religious beliefs, sources say.

“I think [BYU] has as good of a shot as anyone else,” said Evans, a former BYU-Hawaii player who was head coach at Lone Peak High before he became WA’s coach at the beginning of last season.

Sissoko averaged 12.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in 2018-19 and carried a 3.56 grade point average, according to the school’s website.

BYU has also offered Wasatch Academy rising senior forward Caleb Lohner, who the Tribune profiled Thursday, and rising senior guard Richie Saunders, who is from Riverton. Wasatch Academy forward Leo Colimerio, who is also from Brazil, holds a BYU offer as well.

Evans declined to speculate whether BYU’s release of Da Silva will affect its relationship with Colimerio.

Last month, BYU released Chinese big man Shengzhe Li from his NLI. Li, from Shanghai, China, played for former BYU assistant Jeff Reinert at Santa Margarita Catholic High in Southern California last season. Reinert said the parting was a mutual agreement.

(Photo courtesy of Wasatch Academy basketball) Wasatch Academy forward Mady Sissoko, from Mali, West Africa, will be one of the country's top recruits this summer. He has an offer from BYU, and coach Mark Pope recently visited Sissoko's parents in West Africa.